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For fifteen years Bud Isaacs has been blowing the whistle on an abused stretch of the West's most iconic river. In telling the tale of this oilman's battle to repair the ecological damage caused by more than a century of water development, author Stephen Grace is forced to confront the complicated currents that connect us all to water and energy.
As Grace encounters a cast of memorable characters committed to exposing the misguided management of the Colorado River headwaters, the importance of healthy watersheds to our environment and to our patrimony becomes clear. The struggle to save the source of the Colorado is a crucial test of our willingness to preserve a remnant of wild nature for future generations.
The epic clash at the heart of Oil and Water challenges us to change how we see rivers: as living systems rather than lifeless plumbing. And the unlikely protagonist of this story challenges us to avoid reducing people to simple categories. As we marshal our human resources for the monumental task of restoring our nation's natural heritage, developers and environmentalists must mix.
Prologue: The River
1: Books of Nature
2: Oil and Water
3: What Once Was
4: The Last of the Wild
5: Big Tom
6: Water is Power
7: Those Damned Dams
8: Windy Gap
9: The Whirling Disease Nightmare
10: The Worth of Wild Trout
11: Death by Silt
12: Restoring the River
14: The Western White House
15: The Stonemason
16: The High Cost of Speaking Truth to Power
17: Holding the River Hostage
18: Learning by Doing
19: The Long Haul
20: The Death and Life of a Great American River
About the Author
Stephen Grace is the author of many books, including Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future, Grow: Stories from the Urban Food Movement, and The Great Divide. He served as a consultant for the film DamNation and was the scriptwriter and an associate producer for The Great Divide film. He lives in the high desert of Colorado.
"Who is killing the Colorado River? In this environmental detective story, Stephen Grace points fingers and names names, but, best of all, he finds some hope and possible solutions."
– Mark Obmascik, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author of The Big Year and Halfway to Heaven, winner of the National Outdoor Book Award
"An oilman who's also a conservationist? Who knew?! But that describes Bud Isaacs, the inspiration behind this book, and it's his energy and expertise that might save the West's critical upper Colorado River."
– Greg Dobbs, Emmy Award-winning TV network journalist
"A great read about the struggle to preserve a precious piece of the nation's natural heritage and the difference one concerned and very determined citizen can make.Although the story focuses on the headwaters of the Colorado River, it also offers valuable lessons for how diverse interests can, eventually, come together to solve water disputes throughout the American West."
– Fritz Holleman, Former Deputy Solicitor for Water Resources, U.S. Department of the Interior
"Most of us don't think much about it when we turn on the tap to get a glass of water. In this terrific story, Stephen Grace shows us some of the complex issues and fascinating characters that are behind every drop we drink in Colorado and the West."
– Anders Halverson, National Outdoor Book Award-winning author of An Entirely Synthetic Fish
"In Oil and Water, Stephen Grace gives voice to an unlikely cast of characters whose words weave a compelling tale of the death and potential rebirth of one of America's iconic rivers, the Upper Colorado. With the grand sweep of a James Michener novel, the clear-eyed reporting of John McPhee's work, and Grace's own personal insights, Oil and Water deserves a place with the classics of environmental literature."
– Susan J. Tweit, Plant biologist and award-winning author of Walking Nature Home: A Life's Journey
"At its root, conservation is about people. In a conversational and easy-to-read style, Stephen Grace shows us in Oil and Water how one man can make a big difference in helping to protect the lands and waters that sustain us all."
– Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited